The risk for COVID-19 exposure and infection remains and will continue to be in our midst for the foreseeable next several months. Since the start of the pandemic, we have learned a lot about COVID-19 transmission, most notably that there are a large proportion of people who are infected but are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, and they play an important part in community spread. The use of face coverings by everyone can limit the release of infected droplets when talking, coughing, sneezing, singing, exercising, shouting, or other forms of increased respiration, and they can also reinforce physical distancing by signaling the need to remain apart. In addition, increasing evidence also demonstrates a cloth face covering or mask also offers some protection to the wearer, too.
The purpose of this guidance is to provide information about when face coverings are required. It mandates that face coverings be worn state-wide at all times when outside of the home, unless one or more of the exceptions outlined below apply. It does not substitute for existing guidance about physical distancing and hand hygiene.
People in California must wear face coverings when they are outside of the home, unless one of the exemptions below applies.
Note: Persons exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition who are employed in a job involving regular contact with others must wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it.
A cloth face covering is a material that covers the nose and mouth. It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face. It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen. A cloth face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.
You should select a face covering that covers your nose and mouth, goes under the chin, and does not have significant gaps around the nose or other parts of the face. Look for face coverings that have three layers, if possible, and are still easy to breathe through. Be sure that the ear loops or ties are tight enough to keep the face covering from sliding down the nose. Always wear your face covering over your nose and mouth, not under your nose or under your chin.
There is increasing scientific evidence demonstrating that use of face masks or cloth face coverings by the public during this COVID-19 pandemic helps reduce disease transmission. Their primary role is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but feels well, as well as reduce exposure for the wearer. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing, washing hands, and staying home when ill or under quarantine, but they are additive when combined with these primary interventions.
You should wear face coverings whenever you are outside of your home, unless one of the exceptions described above applies to you. Individuals who have significant COVID-19 exposure outside of their home, such as in the workplace, should consider wearing a mask at home, especially if vulnerable individuals are part of their household.
It's a good idea to wash your cloth face covering frequently, ideally after each use, or at least daily. Have a bag or bin to keep cloth face coverings in until they can be laundered with detergent and hot water and dried on a hot cycle. If you must re-wear your cloth face covering before washing, wash your hands immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face. Discard cloth face coverings that:
For additional information and resources regarding masks and face coverings, including types of recommended and not recommended masks, see the CDC Face Coverings Website.